Video: NASA ‘bombs’ the moon

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    >>> and find out... da

    >>> well, we may have missed something here. we were told they were bombing the moon, but two hours ago a two-ton rocket traveling twice the speed of a bullet slammed into the moon in search of water. unfortunately, the animation was more spach spectacular. tom costello with us on the beat with the disappointing pictures and very compelling science.

    >> the good news is, it probably did not hit with such impact where it woke the aliens that woke on the dark side of the moon , and they probably lived through it, so it's fine. that's a joke. we know that the imaging that we expected wasn't that dramatic. we expected a six- mile high plume of rock, dust degree, and hopefully, cross your fingers, ice. we did not see that. it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. and what we know is that that satellite that flew through the plume, picked up scientific data and transmitted it back live. we have a quick early read within an hour or two or three --

    >> what are they looking for?

    >> water and ice?

    >> why is that important?

    >> the surface of the moon is saturated with oxygen and hydrogen. that was a big surprise. we learned that from the orbiters that have been going around the moon recently. but is there ice? is there water they could drink and use the hydrogen for rocket fuel ? that's the big question. if it exists, especially in the lunar south poll, it's cold there, and if there are large quantities of frozen water , might it exist there? that's what everybody is hoping. we still don't know. even though the images were not dramatic, at least not yet, don't write it off because the science could be pretty compelling.

    >> i want to go to jay. a space scientists. if we were to find the water tom was just describing to us from the moon, what do we do with that information?

    >> well, as tom was saying, the principle use of the water will be hydrogen fuel for rockets, and they can use it for fuel fueling generators on the moon. and, of course, the obvious, they could drink it. and being that water is made up two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, once you separate that, technology could be developed where they could actually breathe the oxygen. so if you have a substantial amount up there, then you can setup an enclosed colony, and get your energy from it and get your rocket fuel to come back home from it and also get breathing oxygen and water to drink . so that's why it's so important, dylan.

    >> i have a question here. we are just talking about the possible presence of water in this particular lunar crater . does it mean if there is water there, there is water everywhere?

    >> this was their best guess. the lunar south pole was the best guess because it's so cold. if it's anywhere in large quantities, it's there. jay is our veteran space expert and has been with nbc for 50 years now, and he will tell you we know less about the moon than we know about mars. that's phenomenal! we have been to the moon, so how is that possible? we came and conquered and left. whereas mars, we had missions that revealed tremendous information, about the martian atmosphere , and so believe it or not this now is a much more compelling mission for real hard science than even "apollo" missions were.

    >> and to jay's point, a step in colonizing the moon. if they were to come back in the affirmative --

    >> that's critical.

    >> jonathan and i will be doing the "morning meeting" from the moon.

    >> we may not go to the moon for ten or 20 years. if we are going anywhere beyond the moon, we have to have the moon as a lunar base . most scientists agree on that. if you have water, then you have drinkable, potable water .

    >> who new the next frontier was next door?

    >> exactly. i am going with jay?

    >> i am not going anywhere with jay.

    >> jay, thank you very much, and tom thank you very

By Space Insider columnist
updated 11/6/2009 9:37:14 PM ET 2009-11-07T02:37:14

When a NASA spacecraft rammed into the moon in October, it tossed up a hard-to-see plume of lunar material.

But the event also stirred an observable cloud of public anxiety and protests in some quarters about "bombing" the moon, a backlash that may hint at a rising "Friends of the Moon" movement.

On Oct. 9, the Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) experiment created twin impacts on the moon's surface in a search for water ice. Scientists remain busy at work analyzing data to assess whether water ice was kicked-up by the event. Given a human return to the moon, such a resource could help sustain future explorers there.

Still, not everybody was upbeat about beating up the moon.

Bomb ... bastic term
All the talk about bombing the moon prompted science writer Pete Spotts of the Christian Science Monitor to make his own nose-dive into Webster's Dictionary to pinpoint the definition of "bomb" – "an explosive device used to detonate under specific conditions."

That meaning incited Spotts to scold reporters, chiding them to stop misusing and misinterpreting the word in LCROSS mission coverage.

Similar in view is NASA's Jennifer Heldmann, lead for the LCROSS Observation Campaign at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.

"On LCROSS there are no explosives...there's no bomb. So we're not bombing the Moon," she told SPACE.com prior to the crash. In reality, the moon is regularly hit with impacts that release the sort of magnitude of energy as realized with LCROSS.

So LCROSS wasn't doing anything new to the moon that doesn't happen already, Heldmann emphasized, evidenced by its cratered appearance after being hit with objects the past 4 1/2 billion years or so.

Shock and awe
But others found unnerving aspects to the LCROSS slam dunk.

In the Huffington Post, screenwriter Amy Ephron called it "NASA's own version of shock and awe" and put in motion a "Help Save the Moon" Twitter Page in the hope that readers "can convince NASA not to try any further experiments of this kind," she wrote.

"Well, I for one, don't like explosions. Call me a pacifist, call me cautious, call me an environmentalist, or call me something worse, I don't really care," Ephron explained.

PC World Blogger, Jeff Bertolucci, came up with his own "possible, covert goals" of why NASA bombed the Moon. His self-admitted lighthearted look included:

To destroy secret alien moon bases on the far side
Hate high tides? So does NASA
NASA engineers love demolition derbies

Others took a less jocular view of NASA's LCROSS effort.

Slideshow: Month in Space: January 2014

Lunadarity forever
The Chicago Surrealist Movement put its muscle behind a "Stop NASA From Bombing the Moon" campaign.

That crusade called for "Lunadarity forever!" and included a petition drive on Care2 – billed as an online community of people making a difference in healthy and green living, human rights and animal welfare.

For example, Care2 posted petitions embrace support for climate action to protecting polar bears from global warming, as well as regulating toxic coal ash as hazardous waste.

In this case, the moon petition tagged the NASA experiment as "a hostile act of aggression and a violent intrusion upon our closest and dearest celestial neighbor."

Furthermore, the appeal flagged the LCROSS mission as leading to "the exploitation of resources and the colonization of territory without regard for ecosystems or indigenous peoples, and clearly the moon is the next territory coveted by imperialists."

At last look, some 560 had responded to the anti-NASA bombing the moon petition, over half-way to a 1,000 person sign-up goal.

Real issues
"There are real issues related to lunar preservation and silly issues. The concern about LCROSS is in the latter category," countered Chris McKay, a space scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

McKay said that impacts the size of the LCROSS crash are probably happening naturally on the moon every few decades. "A small crater in a crater saturated surface is hardly environmental destruction," he told SPACE.com.

NASA's 10 greatest science missions But for McKay there are serious issues still to be dealt with in terms of future utilization of the moon.

A plan to mine Helium 3 from the moon to power fusion energy plants that we don't even have yet is one such issue, McKay said. Another is the preservation of NASA's six Apollo moon landing sites.

McKay added that "a real issue for scientists is the creation of a temporary atmosphere [on the moon] due to rocket exhaust. I've seen estimates that it would take decades to subside."

There is an upshot. McKay said he doesn't think there are any serious biological issues with either forward contamination or back contamination, so repeated travel back and forth between Earth and the moon shouldn't pose too big a risk in that respect.

Cultural and natural landscape
"Whether you agree or disagree with the protests about the LCROSS mission, it shows that the moon is perceived as a cultural place as well as a celestial body orbiting Earth," said Beth Laura O'Leary of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. "The moon is seen as part of both a cultural and natural landscape that may be harmed."

O'Leary is co-editor of a new book "Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology, and Heritage" recently issued by CRC Press.

In reviewing the feelings of those expressing LCROSS outrage, O'Leary said they saw the mission as morally wrong. This is in contrast with previous perceptions, she told SPACE.com.

"The idea of sending a spacecraft -- robotic or human piloted -- to the moon was viewed in the 1950s and 1960s as a legitimate scientific exploration, although it was firmly set in the context of the Cold War," she said. "The sentiment... is that it is a bomb site not a crash site and that with the LCROSS mission we are disturbing the natural order of the universe - from changing the tides to committing a sacrilege."

"Some feel it is a violation of the United Nations Outer Space Treaty," she added.

O'Leary said that what is being expressed are some current sentiments which move parallel to, but are in conflict with, the commercial interests in exploring and exploiting the Moon's resources in the near future.

"For space archaeologists, the material cultural and impact area of LCROSS on the moon exist as artifacts and features of an archaeological site. It is one of the few recently created sites on the moon and is part of our space heritage," O'Leary said.

LCROSS joins other lunar locales that are cultural resources on the moon, O'Leary added. "The event and the assemblage have many complex layers of meaning indicative of our human historical perspective about space in the 21st century," she concluded.

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